By Gregg Brekke, Presbyterian News Service.
Concluding its 2015 annual gathering, the Israel/Palestine Mission Network (IPMN) of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) recommitted itself to finding hope and peace for Israel/Palestine even as tensions and violence escalate.
Meeting at Chicago’s Cenacle Retreat and Conference Center Oct. 29–31, 2015, the group spent time in worship, workshops, synod gatherings and hearing from Palestinian partners. Many attendees had also visited Israel/Palestine recently and brought first-hand reports from partners in the region.
Several workshops on Friday introduced emerging issues and concerns. A workshop titled “Liturgical Language” invited attendees to consider how the use of terms such as Israel, in historic and biblical or hymn references, can be understood separate from the modern state of Israel. Conversation took place regarding possible divestment from the global security company G4S due to what the group sees as human rights violations against Palestinians. They also spoke of the “No Way to Treat a Child” campaign, which seeks to raise awareness of the Israeli military’s detention of children.
A Friday afternoon keynote speech by Sa’ed Atshan, who is originally from Palestine and is now a professor of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College, was titled “East-West Solidarity in a Time of Christianophobia.”
“How do we build greater solidarity between Palestinian and American Christians?” Atshan asked at the outset of his presentation. “How de we also address the struggles of Christian communities throughout the Middle East and their possible extinction?”
These questions, he posed, are at the heart of the struggle to maintain a Christian presence in the Middle East. He also named Israeli policies as the main factor in the exodus of Christians from the region.